Into the Moral Labyrinth
A Theological Review of Pan's Labyrinth
Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) is a new fairy tale, but it's also from the pre-Disney world of fairy tales. As such it is magical, brutal, gruesome, mysterious, and full of wonder. This movie is honest about its R rating and is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is also one of the best cinematic studies of dealing with violence I have seen in quite some time.
The film is set in 1944 Fascist Spain right after the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia, a young girl, and her pregnant mother go to stay at a military outpost to be with Ofelia's new stepfather and the father of her unborn sibling. Her new stepfather is a Captain charged with hunting down the remaining rebels hiding out in the woods and he does so brutally and without remorse.
Ofelia is entranced by fairy tales which she reads constantly. She finds an ancient labyrinth in the woods near the compound which she visits one night. At the center of the labyrinth she encounters a faun who tells her she is the long-lost daughter of the King of the Underworld and gives her three tasks to prove her royal lineage. These are also a test to make sure that her soul hasn't gone native to this realm and that she is still worthy of her royal title.
[Warning: Major spoilers follow. I completely give away the ending. Read on only if you've seen the film or never intend to do so. You've been warned.]